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"Amazon Was a Prison," Says Former Worker

A CNBC documentary shines a light on the dark side of Amazon’s business practices.

Jason Del Rey
Jason Del Rey has been a business journalist for 15 years and has covered Amazon, Walmart, and the e-commerce industry for the last decade. He was a senior correspondent at Vox.

To online shoppers, Amazon has become an indispensable part of their lives. To some former employees and business partners, a deal with Amazon is a threat to their livelihoods.

In a documentary called Amazon Rising, which premiered Sunday evening and will re-air on Monday night, CNBC exposed a darker side to Amazon’s business practices.

Among the negative facets of the business it explored were worker conditions at Amazon warehouses and claims that Amazon steals business from some of the very partners who sell on its marketplace.

While CNBC found warehouse employees who were thankful for the pay and benefits that come with a job at an Amazon fulfillment center, several spoke out about against the unrelenting pace of work and unreasonable expectations that take a physical and mental toll on employees.

“I felt like Amazon was a prison,” one former female worker said in the documentary. She and others interviewed reported tough working conditions that include being timed on just about any action imaginable, from bathroom breaks to packing boxes to picking products off of shelves.

CNBC also said it spoke to more than 100 independent businesses who sell their wares through Amazon’s online market. Two dozen of them, according to CNBC, claimed that Amazon attempted to ink separate deals with the merchant’s suppliers to purchase the same goods that the merchant sells and compete directly with them on

“That is the playbook,” former Amazon exec John Rossman told CNBC, whose parent company NBCUniversal is a minority investor in Revere Digital, which publishes Re/code.

The documentary will re-air this evening at 7 pm ET. Here’s a clip from the documentary of two former Amazon execs dishing on what it’s like to work for CEO Jeff Bezos.

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